Best Wineries in New Jersey
New Jersey hasn’t always be known as wine country, but over the last 30 years, the state’s reputation as a top-notch wine region has grown significantly, receiving recognition from critics, industry leaders, and even in competitions throughout the world. New Jersey’s explosive growth in the world of wine comes as a direct result of the relaxation of Prohibition-era restrictions and the implementation of new laws designed to stimulate the growth in the industry. Under the prohibition era laws, New Jersey’s wine industry was decimated. Even after the repeal of Prohibition, New Jersey was limited by law to a ratio of one winery license for every million residents in the state. However, with the introduction of the New Jersey Farm Winery Act, small growers were able to obtain a license and begin producing wine in New Jersey. This has since developed into a $35 million+ industry with over 40 different wineries throughout the state. In fact, today New Jersey ranks 7th among wine producers across the nation. The state produces a little below two million gallons, which means it’s still only a tiny fraction compared to the largest producer in the nation – California.
Wine Regions in New Jersey
New Jersey’s growing regions are split into three federally designated “American Viticultural Areas” (AVA’s), though a handful of wineries fall outside of these areas. A majority of wineries in New Jersey fall in South Jersey’s Outer Coastal Plain Viticultural area due to its desirable sandy soil and warm climate. Another handful of vineyards are located in the Warren Hills Viticultural area, an area largely known for dairy farming and rolling hills. New Jersey’s third viticultural area, the Central Delaware Valley AVA, is found partly in New Jersey and southeastern Pennsylvania, and contains only one New Jersey vineyard. Each AVA has it’s own advantage and specialties due to the region, soil, and climate, as seen below.
Differences between New Jersey’s Viticultural Areas
Outer Coastal Plain AVA: Established by the federal government in 2007, this AVA spreads across most of the southern half of New Jersey and contains roughly 70 percent of the grapes produced in New Jersey. This area is best known for its high production yield of all crops, most notably being blueberries, cranberries, and tomatoes. This region’s sandy loam soil and fertile sand, in combination with longer growing season and warm climate, means that the Outer Coastal Plains AVA is perfect for growing vinifera varieties, which are grapes that are too sensitive to to grow in the rest of the state. A majority of wineries in the state are located in this area, and the region has become notable for producing some of the best red wines in NJ.
Warren Hills AVA: Federally established in 1988, this AVA consists of over 140,000 acres, which include most of Warren County NJ. Primarily known for dairy farming, the Warren Hills AVA has become more and more well known as a region perfect for French Hybrid grapes. It is further north and higher in elevation than the other two AVA’s, which means that it has a colder climate and shorter growing season than other parts of the state. As a result, white wines typically grow better here than in other areas of New Jersey.
Central Delaware Valley AVA: The Central Delaware Valley AVA, established in 1984, is the oldest AVA in New Jersey. The region straddles the Delaware River and has a much colder climate than the Outer Coastal Plains. Given the cooler temperatures, white wines grow very well in this region though few New Jersey wineries have been established here.
Types of Grapes grown in New Jersey
The grapes that New Jersey can grow are entirely dictated by the weather and soil throughout the state’s wine country. Most vineyards in New Jersey have a fairly short growing period compared to other states, which makes it more difficult for some varietals, such as Cabernet Sauvignon, to mature properly. High summer temperatures also make it difficult for varieties such as Pinot Noir and Sangiovese to grow well, as they require cooler and humid free evenings to properly grow. The colder climate of New Jersey makes it particularly easy for white wines such as Chardonnay and Riesling, which are more resilient to cold climates to flourish.
The whole state, however, isn’t affected by cool climates. The Outer Coastal Plains AVA, which experiences warmer temperatures, is exceptionally well suited to growing grapes like Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, and even Syrah. In fact, this region is so conducive to growing grapes that over 90 different varieties are produced here, and it plays host to a majority of wineries in the state.
New Jersey Fruit Wines
As well as producing high-quality wines from a variety of different styles, New Jersey also has a significant fruit wine market. Some of the most popular fruit wines from New Jersey include Açaí berries, apples, black and blueberries, black currants, pineapples, pumpkins, raspberries, strawberries, and more. The success of fruit wine in New Jersey stems from two different factors. The first is that these are all readily available crops that easily grow in the Garden State, while the second is that some truly talented winemakers have been using their exceptional talent to create some of the most delicious fruit wines on the market.
Best Wineries in New Jersey
At Applewood Estates, we love and support all of the wineries in New Jersey, which makes it really tough to come up with a list of the top 10 wineries in the state. So we put our personal tastes aside, and let the experts decide. Below you’ll find the top 10 wineries in the state based on their performance in the recent 2017 New Jersey Wine Competition, hosted by the Garden State Wine Growers Association.
Found in the Outer Coastal Plains AVA near Camden County, Sharrott Winery’s vineyard was planted in 2005 before opening to the public in 2008. Named for the family that owns the vineyard, Sharrott cultivates six acres of grapes, with a particular focus on Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chambourcin, Chardonnay, Merlot, and Riesling. Sharrott is notable among New Jersey wineries for their use of solar energy, which powers the entire facility. Sharrott is also the first winery in the state to have a theatre as an outlet to sell wine by the glass to their patrons.
Sharrott Winery came away from the 2017 New Jersey Wine Competition as the most decorated winery in New Jersey, with 12 medals in total. These include two golds for their Blue Anchor non-vintage Vignoles and 2013 Wicked Port, as well as four silver medals and six bronze medals. Sharrott Winery also won the Governor’s Cup Award for their 2013 Wicked Port, which won for best hybrid as well.
While the first vineyard was planted in 1998, Heritage Farm in Gloucester County, New Jersey, is a long established family produce farm, dating all the way back to 1853. However, it wasn’t until 2002 when Heritage Vineyards opened their doors to the public as a winery. These days, Heritage is one of the largest producers of wine in New Jersey, with over 40 acres of grapes in cultivation. Found in the Outer Coastal Plains AVA, Heritage Vineyards is known best for their Bordeaux-style wines, though they also produce Cab Franc, Cab Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Concord, Grenache, Malbec, and Merlot wines. Heritage Vineyards also produces fruit wines from apples, blueberries, peaches, and sugar plums. Heritage Vineyards is notable for being the only winery in New Jersey that produces wine using sugar plums.
Heritage Vineyards earned an impressive 10 medals in the 2017 New Jersey Wine Competition, though the vineyard didn’t capture gold. Heritage Vineyards earned eight silver medals for several different varietals and vintages. Their Mullica Hill BDX, Brut, Cab Franc, Coeur d’Est each took silver, as well as their 2015 Chenin Blanc. Also, their non-vintage Painted Hill and Penlyn Place Rosso earned silver medals. Meanwhile, Heritage’s 2015 Mullica Hill Chardonnay Reserve and Semillon received bronze medals.
Monroeville Vineyard & Winery
Monroeville Vineyard is located in the Monroeville section of Salem County, New Jersey and is also in the Outer Coastal Plain AVA. Monroeville Winery is a relatively young winery for New Jersey, with its first vineyard planted in 2010 then opening to the public in 2012. The four acres of grapes under cultivation by the Monroeville Winery have already received a number of awards within a short time span, and it is unique among New Jersey wineries for their use of Chilean grapes. Among others, Monroeville produces wine from Cab Franc, Cab Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Merlot, Muscat of Alexandria, Pinot Gris and Syrah. Monroeville also produces fruit wines made from apples, blueberries, cranberries, nectarines, peaches, and strawberries.
Monroeville Winery earned an impressive 10 total medals in 2017, tying with Sharrott. The young vineyard earned three silver medals for their non-vintage barrel aged apple win, as well as their non-vintage Stillwater Red and 2015 Cabernet Franc. Monroeville Vineyard & Winery also earned seven bronze medals for their non-vintage Asian Pear, Basil, Blueberry, Chardonnay, Richwood Red, Sangria, and Stillwater White wines.
Terhune Orchards & Winery
First established in 1975 as a family produce farm, the vineyard at Terhune Orchards & Winery was planted in 2003 before opening to the public in 2010. Named for the family that formerly owned the farm, Terhune Orchards uses their five acres of grapes to cultivate wine from Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Niagara, Organe Muscat, Traminette, and Vidal Blanc grapes. As well as producing traditional wines, Terhune Orchards is also known for their fruit wines developed from apples, blueberries, and peaches. However, unlike most wineries, Terhune is not located in one of New Jersey’s viticultural areas, and it also produces bread, cider, doughnuts, fruits, pies, and vegetables. During the autumn harvest season, this particular winery also offers apple picking and wagon rides.
Terhune Orchard’s performed exceptionally well in the 2017 New Jersey Wine Competition and earned more gold medals than any other winery represented in the competition. Terhune’s gold medals were earned by their non-vintage Blossum White, Harvest Blues, and Just Peachy wines. Terhune also won two silver medals and four bronze medals rounding out to a total of nine medals, though the most impressive accomplishment was their Governor’s Cup award for fruit wine with their non-vintage Blueberry Wine.
Established in 2009, Beneduce Vineyards has roughly 10 acres dedicated to growing a variety of different styles, including Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Gewurztraminer, Malbec, and Riesling. Beneduce Vineyards is notable for being the only winery in New Jersey that produces wine using Noiret, which is a hybrid red grape created in New York in the early ’70’s.
Beneduce Vineyards placed well in the 2017 New Jersey Wine Competition, coming in fifth place for total medals. The vineyard earned four silver medals for their Chardonnay, Gewurztraminer, Shotgun Red, and 2014 Blue 2. Beneduce Vineyards rounded off the competition by earning four bronze medals as well, for a total of eight medals in 2017.
Hopewell Valley Vineyards
Within Mercer County, New Jersey lies Hopewell Valley Vineyards. This large winery was first planted in 2001, and opened to the public in 2003. This mid-size winery uses its 25 acres to cultivate a wide variety of grapes, including Barbera, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chambourcin, Chardonnay, Merlot, Muscat blanc, Sangiovese, and Vidal blanc. There are two unique features of Hopewell Valley Vineyard, the first is that it is one of a few wineries that is not located in one of New Jersey’s three viticultural areas. Hopewell Valley Vineyards is also the only winery in New Jersey to produce wine from Brachetto grapes, a vinifera grape found in the Piedmont region of Italy, and generally used for producing sparkling wines.
Hopewell Valley Vineyard earned 8 medals, becoming the 6th most decorated winery after the 2017 New Jersey Wine Competition concluded. The only silver medal earned by Hopewell Valley Vineyard came from their 2006 Pennington Port, while their non-vintage Chocolate Port, Dolce Vita, and Pinot Grigio each earned bronzes medals, along with their 2015 Barbera and Chardonnay, and 2013 Chambourcin. Rounding off their eight medals, Hopewell Valley Vineyards also earned a bronze medal for their Pennington 2013 Rosso della Valle 2015 Pinot Grigio.
Mount Salem Vineyards
Mount Salem Vineyards opened to the public in 2010 and was once a produce, grain, and dairy farm before switching gears in 2005 when the first vineyard was planted. With seven acres of land available, Mount Salem produces roughly 1,000 cases of wine a year. This particular vineyard specializes in using grapes from Austria and Northern Italy, allowing them to produce wines including Chardonnay, Viognier, Traminette, and Zweigelt, among others. Mount Salem is also not located in any of the three AVAs in New Jersey.
In the 2017 New Jersey Wine Competition, Mount Salem tied with Beneduce and Hopewell Valley Vineyards, earning eight medals in total. Mount Salem earned only one silver medal for their 2015 Albarino, though Mount Salem also earn bronze for their 2015 vintages of Barbera, Cab. Franc, Dry Riesling, Gruner Veltliner, Viognier, Zweigelt, and Blue/Zwei/St.Laurent varietals.
Hawk Haven Vineyards
Dating back to 1940, Hawk Haven was purchased by Johan Felix Wuerker who came to Cape May, New Jersey from Germany and purchased the land where the winery sits today. Still in the family, the first grapevines, which were Cabernet Sauvignon, were not planted until 1997. The winery opened in August of 2006, and the first vintage was in 2007, consisting of the American Kestrel White (an unoaked Chardonnay), Red Table Wine, Merlot, and Cabernet Sauvignon. Hawk Haven has 14 acres of vines with sixteen different varieties of grapes and produces 5,000 cases of wine each year. All of the grapes are harvested, pressed, fermented, aged, blended, and bottled on site.
Hawk Haven Vineyard & Winery is located in the Outer Coastal Plain AVA. The vineyard serves as a winegrowing test site for Rutgers University to study whether Lagrein and Teroldego grapes, which are red vinifera grapes indigenous to the Trentino-South Tyrol region of Italy, can be grown in the climate of New Jersey. Hawk Haven is the only New Jersey winery that uses Lagrein and Teroldego. Hawk Haven was awarded three silver medals and four bronze medals at the 2017 New Jersey Wine Competition.
Like a majority of New Jersey wineries, Plagido’s Winery is located in the Outer Coastal Plain AVA and was primarily a family produce farm until the end of the 19th century. Though it’s first vineyard was planted in 1999, this winery was not open to the public until 2007, and at the time was known as “Placido’s Winery.” The name was changed in 2008 as another winery in Tuscany had a similar name. Plagido’s uses their 14 acres to cultivate grapes that include Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Concord, Fredonia, Merlot, Niagara, Syrah, and it is the only winery in the state that produces wine using the Marquis, a hybrid grape developed in New York in 1968.
Plagido’s Winery was honored to win the “Winery of the Year” award for the second consecutive year from the New Jersey Wine Competition, and earned 8 medals, including a gold medal for their non-vintage Black Berry Vigoroso. Plagido’s Winery also earned four silver medals for their 2015 Cab Franc, 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon, non-vintage Concetta’s Casalinga, and 2015 Cour d’Est. In addition to their four silver medals, Plagido’s also took home bronze for their non-vintage Chambourcin and Niagara, as well as their 2015 Cab Franc/Merlot.
Once part of the largest peach orchard in the United States, Unionville Vineyards was split off as part of a dowry present in the 1800’s, when one of the original owner’s daughters was married. The 88.7 acres that make up this farm offer exceptional views of the natural beauty of the state and a unique slice of history, as just south of Unionville is where George Washington led the Colonial Army across the Delaware River and forever changed the nation’s history. It was not until 1997 when the first vineyards were planted, and the winery itself did not open up to the public until April 1, 1993. Unionville vineyard currently ranges a sprawling 40 acres and sources grapes from six different vineyards throughout three different New Jersey counties, allowing the winemakers to craft exceptionally diverse wine.
Earning seven total medals in 2017, Unionville Vineyards took home three silver medals for their Ringoes 2015 Fox Chardonnay, 2013 Pheasant Hill Syrah, and Ringoes non-vintage Vat 22. Unionville Vineyard then went on to earn four more bronze medals for their 2014 Cab Franc, 2016 Hunterdon Mistral Rose, 2014 Mountain Road Chardonnay, and 2014 The Big O.
The Best Wineries in New Jersey
Though wineries in New Jersey may not be as numerous or prolific as wineries based in California, New Jersey makes some exceptional wines and has the awards to prove it. Having mastered many difficult and hard-to-grow varietals, New Jersey wines make for something special, despite their lack of publicity nationwide. So what are you waiting for? New Jersey’s wineries are there to make delicious drinks but also to provide a wonderful environment for the whole family, so get out and explore!